Whitewater rafting and kayaking have been recreational staples in West Virginia for over 50 years. What started as a dream among three brothers from Pennsylvania is now one of the most lucrative industries in the state.
- 1968 – West Virginia’s whitewater rafting industry became a major tourism driver for the state in 1968 when whitewater pioneer Jon Dragan and his brothers founded Wildwater Expeditions Unlimited.
- 1977 – By 1977 the New River Gorge Bridge was completed, making getting to the area easier than ever before.
- 1978 – The New River was declared a National River in 1978 by the National Park Service.
- 1980 – The first New River Gorge Bridge Day was held on November 8. Now one of the state’s largest events, the first Bridge Day featured two parachutists that jumped from a plane onto the bridge. Another five parachutists jumped from the bridge into the gorge.
- 1988 – The Gauley River National Recreation Area was established in 1988, protecting 25 miles of the Gauley River and six miles of the Meadow River.
- 2018 – Proud West Virginians rafters, non-native rafters, and everyone in between celebrated 50 years of being on the water in our incredible outdoor playground.
Celebrate 50 years of whitewater rafting
Every year, thousands of people from all over the world journey to the New and Gauley rivers to ride some of the best whitewater rapids in the east. Rafting companies in the area entice travelers with guided trip packages that include perks like lodging, dining and a wide range of recreational activities from horseback riding to zipline canopy tours…
West Virginia Whitewater Rafting’s 50th Anniversary
What began as a dream among three brothers from Pennsylvania grew into a key component of West Virginia’s tourism industry. Fifty years on, West Virginia sees a steady influx of visitors looking to challenge some of the best whitewater in the United States…